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Overview Last updated: July, 2014

Jordan is not known to possess nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs, or ballistic or cruise missile systems. [1] The country is a member in good standing of all relevant nonproliferation treaties and organizations, in addition to participating in ad hoc efforts such as the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative. Jordan is a strong supporter of establishing a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East. [2]

Nuclear

Jordan is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and is not believed to harbor nuclear weapons ambitions. In 1998, Jordan was the first country in the Middle East to adopt the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) extra inspection privileges. [3] However, Jordan has yet to adopt the newest amendments to the Small Quantities Protocol, preventing the IAEA from carrying out verification activities in the country. [4] As an NPT member in good standing, the country is seeking international assistance to develop a peaceful nuclear program. Jordan does not possess any significant nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. The country concluded an agreement with South Korea in 2009 for the construction of the Jordanian Research and Training Reactor, a 5MW research reactor fueled by 19% low enriched uranium, which is slated for completion by 2015. [5] The fuel for the reactor will be supplied by the French firm Areva. [6]

In January 2007, King Abdullah II announced Jordan's intention to develop a civilian nuclear power program, which would contribute to a number of national strategic goals. [7] In order to achieve greater energy security, Jordan is looking to diversify its energy portfolio. [8] In recent years, Jordan has experienced several shortages of energy imports from neighboring Egypt due to the ongoing unrest, providing further impetus for the country to pursue nuclear energy. For example, the Al-Arish pipeline, which exports natural gas from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and provides Jordan with 80 percent of its natural gas needs has been bombed by militants more than 20 times since the 2011 Egyptian revolution. [9]

While the country hopes to obtain 30% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030, there are significant obstacles to achieving this ambition. The country is earthquake prone and water poor, which poses major environmental challenges to the development of a nuclear energy program. Since nuclear power is highly capital intensive, requiring enormous up-front investment, Jordan may also find acquiring a nuclear power plant financially prohibitive. [10] Jordan possesses few trained personnel and a limited nuclear research and education infrastructure, though the country is working to address this challenge. In 2007, the Jordan University of Science and Technology started a nuclear engineering degree program in support of the budding nuclear program. [11] Also in 2007, the country established the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission (JNRC) to succeed the Jordan Nuclear Energy Commission (JNEC). [12] Still in its infancy, the JNRC likely remains insufficiently robust to provide oversight for a major civil nuclear program. [13]

As a country new to nuclear power, Jordan will rely on foreign suppliers for assistance constructing and operating its first nuclear power plants. The country is in the process of negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, and has concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with Argentina, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Romania, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. [14] Officials at Jordan's Atomic Energy Commission have expressed a preference for Generation III and Generation III+ reactor designs. [15] These reactors are generally distinguished from their older counterparts by evolutionary improvements in areas such as passive safety. In January 2011, Jordan issued a tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant, which was eventually awarded to Rosatom's reactor export subsidiary, AtomStroyExport, in October 2013. [16] Under the deal, the Russian firm will supply two reactors. Jordan hopes the first reactor, based on the AES92 design, will come online by 2023. [17] Although the financing is not completely finalized, it is proposed that Jordan would pay 51% of the $10 billion construction and operation cost. [18] As of October 2013, Russia would contribute 49% of the cost, and might decide to oversee the project along the build-operate-own (BOO) financial model. [19]

A May 2012 parliamentary vote ordering the suspension of nuclear activities, including uranium exploration, was ignored by the government, and the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission has continued with the program, including the site selection process. [20] Multiple sites have been considered, and the proposed site has been relocated three times. [21] When Jordan announced its October 2013 deal with Russia, it designated Qusayr Amra, 70 kilometers east of Amman, as the site for the planned reactors. This choice faces substantial resistance from local tribes and environmental activists, who are concerned about the impact of the reactors on the local Bedouin lifestyle and economic system. [22]

Home to large but unexploited deposits of natural uranium ore, Jordan views this resource as a potentially significant source of new revenue. The country is believed to have approximately 79,000 metric tons of uranium-ore reserves, which is roughly 2% of the world's total. [23] The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission signed an exploration agreement with the French company, AREVA, in 2008 in order to study the possibility of uranium mining in central Jordan. [24] According to the JAEC, there are sufficient uranium reserves in central and southern Jordan to meet the demands of the country's planned nuclear program for 150 years. [25] In May 2014, the Jordan Uranium Mining Company (JUMCO) announced a uranium plant project with an eventual capacity of 1500 tons. [26] Once developed, Jordan hopes to become a "leading uranium provider" to countries in the region interested in pursuing nuclear energy. [27]

It is unclear whether Jordan will successfully conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, but given its agreements with other countries this is unlikely to be a limiting factor for the development of its nuclear power sector. Bilateral talks stalled in 2011 due to "political turmoil" in the Middle East, but resumed in February 2012. [28] The Obama Administration has sent mixed signals as to whether it will pressure Jordan to agree to the "gold standard" precedent set with the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement, under which the UAE agreed not to pursue indigenous uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing capabilities. [29] While it is uncertain whether Jordan could ever build economically justifiable enrichment capabilities, the country has expressed a desire to keep its options open, perhaps seeing such capabilities as a way to add value to its natural uranium reserves. Like many non-nuclear weapon states, the Jordanian government also believes that the NPT affords it the right to all capabilities associated with the peaceful nuclear fuel cycle, and is therefore disinclined on principle to sign an agreement holding it to a different standard than most other treaty members.

Biological

Jordan does not possess biological weapons and is not known to have ever had a biological weapons program. [30] The country became a state party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1975, and has submitted an Article B BTWC Confidence Building Measure. [31]

Since 2004, Jordan has launched several initiatives to develop its biotechnology sector, including establishing a National Center for Biotechnology to serve as a central coordinating institution for both domestic and international biotechnology activities. [32] However, the robustness of these initiatives remains hampered by human capital and investment constraints. [33] The Jordanian pharmaceutical industry has shown strong growth since the early 2000s, and exports products throughout the Middle East and North Africa. [34] In 2004, Jordan prepared a National Biosafety Framework to better manage the risks associated with these activities. [35] Jordan also hosted the Biosafety and Biosecurity International Conference in Amman in 2011 to promote "healthier and more secure communities in the Middle East and North Africa." [36]

Chemical

Jordan acceded to the Geneva Protocol in January 1977 and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in October 1997. [37] Amman has consistently been found in compliance with its CWC commitments, and is not believed to have pursued a chemical warfare capability. [38] Jordan's borders with states suspected of chemical weapons activities necessitate robust border security and export controls to prevent its territory from being used as an illicit transshipment route. [39] This is of particular concern along the 377 kilometer Jordanian-Syrian border, given Syria's ongoing civil war since 2011, and the documented use of sarin, a nerve agent, in 2013. [40] Jordan has invested heavily in counter-terrorism efforts, and has received training and other assistance from the United States to secure its borders against illicit trafficking. [41] In March 2011, The U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program gave $200,000 worth of border inspection equipment to organizations in Jordan, including the Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Committee (JNRC). [42] In April 2013, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded Raytheon a border security contract worth $35.9 million to establish a surveillance system and provide training along the Jordanian border. [43] Additionally, Jordan has asked the U.S. to supply surveillance aircraft and training for Jordanian Special Operations forces to defend against chemical weapons. [44]

Missile

Jordan is not believed to possess Missile Technology Control Regime Category I or II ballistic or cruise missile delivery systems. [45] Amman is a state party to the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. [46]

Sources:
[1] "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat," National Air and Space Intelligence Center: Wright Patterson Air Force Base, April 2009, MASIC-1031-0985-09.
[2] "Mideast WMD-Free Zone Should be Pursued Incrementally, Experts Say," Global Security Newswire, 2 December 2011, www.nti.org/gsn.
[3] Timothée Germain, "Jordan: Ambitions and setbacks of the civilian nuclear programme," Cesim: The Non-Proliferation Monthly, August 2012, p. 4, www.cesim.fr, (accessed July 9, 2014).
[4] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013.
[5] "Work on Jordan's First Nuclear Reactor Begins," Xinhua, 27 July 2010, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn.
[6] "AREVA to Supply Nuclear Fuel for a Jordanian Research Reactor," The Wall Street Journal, 17 April 2013.
[7] Charles Ebinger, John Banks, Kevin Massy, Govinda Avasarala, "Models for Aspirant Civil Nuclear Energy Nations in the Middle East," Policy Brief 11-01, The Brookings Institute, September 2011, p. 15-16, www.brookings.edu; "Chapter Four: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq," in Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), p. 82.
[8] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013.
[9] Ali Omar, "Al-Arish Natural Gas Pipeline Bombed," Daily News Egypt, May 24, 2014; Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013.
[10] "Chapter Four: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq," in Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), pp. 73-96.
[11] "Faculty of Engineering: Nuclear Engineering," Jordan University of Science and Technology, 2012, www.just.edu.jo.
[12] "Establishment and Mission," Jordan Nuclear Regulatory Commission, www.jnrc.gov.jo, (accessed June 9, 2014).
[13] "Jordan: Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, February 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[14] "Jordan: Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries," World Nuclear Association, February 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[15] "White Paper on Nuclear Energy in Jordan: Final Report," Worley Parsons Resources and Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, September 2011, p. 53, www.jaec.gov.jo; Kamal J. Araj, "The Role of Nuclear Power in Jordan," Presentation at the Jordan Energy Investment Summit, 11 October 2011.
[16] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013; Dan Yurman, "Update on Jordan's Nuclear Program," The Energy Collective, June 7, 2012, www.theenergycollective.com.
[17] Claire-Louise Isted, "Rosatom expects funding for foreign projects," Nucleonics Week, November 21, 2013.
[18] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013.
[19] "Major uranium project is proposed" Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile - Jordan, www.country.eiu.com
[20] Hanan Al Kiswany, "Jordan's nuclear programme comes under fire," SciDev, 11 July 2012, www.scidev.net.
[21] "Jordanian nuclear decisions soon," World Nuclear News, 18 March 2013.
[22] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013; Areej Abuqudairi, "Jordan nuclear battle heats up," Al Jazeera, April 14, 2014.
[23] "Jordanian Parliament Votes to Suspend Nuclear Power Program," Haaretz, 30 May 2012, www.haaretz.com; Raed Omari, "Deputies Vote to Suspend Nuclear Project," The Jordan Times, 30 May 2012, www.jordantimes.com.
[24] Yanmei Xie, "Negotiations for Nuclear Trade Suspended with Jordan: State Department,"Platts, 10 March 2011, www.platts.com.
[25] "Jordanian nuclear decisions soon," World Nuclear News, 18 March 2013.
[26] "Major uranium project is proposed," Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile - Jordan, www.country.eiu.com
[27] Chen Kane, "Are Jordan's nuclear ambitions a mirage?" Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, December 15, 2013.
[28] Yanmei Xie, "Negotiations for Nuclear Trade Suspended with Jordan: State Department,"Platts, 10 March 2011, www.platts.com.
[29] Elaine Grossman, "U.S. Nuclear Trade Policy Concerns Mounting on Capitol Hill," Global Security Newswire, 17 February 2012, www.nti.org/gsn.
[30] Raymond Zilinskas, Biological Warfare: Modern Offense and Defense (Lynne Reiner Publishers Incorporated, 2000), p. 45.
[31] "Status of the Convention," The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, June 2005, www.opbw.org; "Jordan: Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes," Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), 18 November 2010, www.nonproliferation.org.
[32] Hannah Highfill, Assessment Report on Biotechnology Capabilities and Opportunities in Jordan, BearingPoint, Inc., September 2007.
[33] Hannah Highfill, Assessment Report on Biotechnology Capabilities and Opportunities in Jordan in Jordan, BearingPoint, Inc, September 2007; Moh'd M. Ajlouni and H. Malkawi, "Jordan: Status and Future Prospects of Biotechnology," in G.J. Persley and M.M. Lantin, eds., Agricultural Biotechnology and the Poor (Washington, DC: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, The World Bank, 2000).
[34] Jordan National Competitiveness Observator, "Pharmaceuticals," Jordan's Competitiveness Report of 2007 (Amman: JNCO, 2007).
[35] The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ministry of Environment, National Biosafety Framework of Jordan (Amman: Ministry of the Environment, August 2004).
[36] "Conference Statement: Biosafety and Biosecurity International Conference 2011," International Council for the Life Sciences and El Hassan Science Society, 15 September 2011, www.bbic-2011.org.
[37] Chen Kane, "The role of civil society in promoting a WMDFZ in the Middle East," Disarmament Forum UNIDIR, Issue 2, 2011.
[38] U.S. Department of State, "Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare," (Geneva Protocol), www.state.gov, 14 March 2012; Office of the Legal Adviser, "Note by the Technical Secretariat: Status of Participation in the CWC as at 21 May 2009," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 27 May 2009; Tom Collina, "Chemical Weapons Convention Signatories and State Parties," Arms Control Association, 2011, www.armscontrol.org.
[39] See, for example: U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," July 2010; Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, Covering 1 January to 31 December 2009," 2009; E.J. Hogendoorn, "A chemical weapons atlas," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 53, No. 5, September/October 1997, pp. 35-39; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks, OTA-ISC-559 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 1993).
[40] Zachary Kallenborn and Raymond A. Zilinskas, "Disarming Syria of Its Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned from Iraq and Libya," Nuclear Threat Initiative, October 31, 2013, www.nti.org (accessed July 8, 2014); United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, "Report of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013," A/67/997-S/2013/553, September 16, 2013.
[41] Gordon M. Burck and Charles C. Flowerree, International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), p. 330.
[42] "Jordan Border Security," GlobalSecurity.org, (accessed July 8, 2014).
[43] "Raytheon awarded $35.9 million DTRA border security contract," News Release, Raytheon Company, April 11, 2013.
[44] Thom Shanker, "Jordan Asks for Assistance in Securing Syrian Border," New York Times, August 14, 2013, www.nytimes.com.
[45] "Missile Technology Control Regime- Handbook 2010," Missile Technology Control Regime, 2010, www.mtcr.info; "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat," National Air and Space Intelligence Center Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, April 2009.
[46] "Jordan: Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes," Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), 18 November 2010, www.nonproliferation.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Jordan

  • Joined the IAEA Additional Protocol
  • Negotiating a 123 Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the United States
  • Hopes to obtain 30% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030